3. The Word (Śabda) | Śrī Vaishnavism

3 - The Word (Śabda)

After the exposition of Inference (Anumāna), the word (Śabda) in will be expounded.

Śabda-Pramāṇa or the Instrument (or Means) viz., “Word”, is that which produces the knowledge obtained from sentences non-uttered by the non-trustworthy (men) (An-āptā).

Non-uttered by the Non-trustworthy” is (a characterisation advisedly) employed to controvert the opinion that “the Word” (Vedas) is of human origin.

Or “the Word” is that which is exempt from the sense-errors (Karaṇa-doṣa) and contrarieties (Bādhaka-pratyaya).

At the outset of a Creation, God (Bhagavān,) evolved out of His Consciousness what past order of the Vedas had there lain, and taught them to Catur-mukha (Brahma).

When this is granted, eternality and non-humanness are assured. Then are absent the errors of sense and contrarieties.

But it may be asked how the Vedas can be authoritative (Prāmāṇya), inasmuch as the Mimāmsakas admit them only as concerned with Kārya or Effects, and that Texts concerning the Self-evident (Siddha) Brahman (God), do not convey instruction.

This (objection) is met by showing that:

(1) these Texts which are concerned with the Self-evident Brahman are employable for purposes of contemplation (Upāsanā), partaking of the nature of effects (Kārya);

(2) that even sentences employed in worldly affairs, such as: “Thy father is doing well,” do convey instruction (or sense); and

(3) that in the world it is seen that children, gradually and repeatedly taught by their mothers, fathers etc., by employing words connoting mother, father, uncle, moon etc., (at same time) indicating these with their fingers, come to understand the meanings thereof:

Hence, in the (case of the) Vedas also, words convey instruction (or knowledge) of things self-evident. Hence there is no room for questioning the authoritativeness of the Vedas.

(Also) it need not be doubted how that part (of the Vedas) which treats of Abhichāra etc., can be authoritative, for by their means visible results are demonstrated that thus, an incentive for engaging in works fruitful of invisible results, such as Svarga etc.  may be provided.

Such texts as: “Post-Sun” are construable as meaning that the Post is as shining as the Sun.

Hence in their totality are the Vedas authoritative.

This Veda is twofold:

(1) the Pre-Division (Pūrva) treating of Works (Karma),
(2) the Post- Division (Uttara) treating of God (Brahman).

The Pūrva Mīmāṁsā treats of Works, which is Worship (of God); and the Uttarā Mīmāṁsā treats of Brahman (God), the Worshippable. Hence both the Mimāṁsas or Vedic Discourses constitute one Science (Śāstra).

Comprised of the Two Divisions, (the Vedas) are made up of:

(1) Ṛig,
(2) Yajus,
(3) Sāma and
(4) Atharvana.

These again branch out innumerable.

The diversified Ṛig. etc., Veda is three-fold, such as:

(1) Mantra,
(2) Arthavāda and
(3) Vidhi.

Mantra explains the Purpose (artha) of action, (or shows the motive for act).

Arthavāda constitutes passages intended to stimulate effort conformable to Injunctions (Vidhi).

Vidhi is “text” which enjoins what is good (for one to do).

Vidhi (Injunction) is again threefold: -

(1) Apūrva,
(2) Parisaṅkhyā and
(3) Niyama.

Again is it divisible into many classes; such as: Nitya, Naimittika, Kāmya etc.

Apūrva-Vidhi comprises such injunctions as: “Sprinkles paddy”.

Viśiṣṭa-Vidhi (falling under Apūrva) is meditative injunctions such as mano-māyā.

Parisaṅkhyā-Vidhi comprises such injunctions as: - “Holding this rope.”

Niyama-Vidhi comprises such injunctions as require (a disciple) approaching the holy preceptor.

Nitya-Vidhi comprises such injunctions as the twilight meditations (Sandhyā-Vandana).

Naimittika-Vidhi comprises such injunctions as the Iṣṭi –performances etc., consequent on birth.

Kāmya-Vidhi comprises such injunctions as the performances of Jyotiṣṭoma etc.

Thus the Veda comprised of Vidhi, Arthavāda and Mantra, has the limbs:

(1) Chhandas,
(2) Kalpa
(3) Śikṣā,
(4) Nirukta,
(5) Jyotiṣa, and
(6) Vyākaraṇa.

Chhandas is the exposition (of metres) such as Anuṣṭup, Triṣṭub etc. (Metrics).

Kalpa is the exposition of the modus operandi of Śrauta and Smārta ritual.

Śikṣā is what concerns itself with the syntactical collocation of letters (Phonetics).

Nirukta is what concerns itself with the ex-planation of rare meanings (of words) (Etymological lexicography).

Jyotiṣa is what determines the time for undertaking Adhyāyana and its precepts (Astronomy and Astrology).

Vyākaraṇa is known to be that which determines the pure word-formation and intonation (Grammar).

Thus, the authoritativeness of the Veda with its limbs is evident (or established).

Smṛiti is authoritative, for it is not opposed to Śruti; expounds (the Law of) Ācāra or conduct, Vyavahāra or Transactions, Prāyaścitta or Penances, etc., and instituted by our Āptas or Elderly well-wishers.

Though Hiraṇyagarbha and others are all well-meaning (āpta), they are subject to the influences of the Three Guṇas:

Hence those portions of their works: Yoga,  Kapilā etc., are alone authoritative which do not conflict with the Smṛiti of Manu and others; only those portions which contradict true tenets (tattva) are discarded.

The authoritativeness of Itihāsas and Purāṇas are self-evident by reason of their Exegetic character on the Vedas.

As regards Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa (Itihāsas), any passages or tenets which may seem objectionable must be duly interpreted in the same manner as the Vedānta-passages are.

The Purāṇas also, treating of the Five (Topics): creation etc., are divisible into the (three) groups:

(1) Sāttvika (pure),
(2) Rājasa (mixed) and
(3) Tāmasa (impure);

and where they conflict with true tenet (tattva), they are no authority. The rest is authoritative.

The Pāśupata etc., Āgamas are likewise (to be considered).

The Pañcarātra-Āgamas viz.: Āgama-, Divya- tantra-, Tantrāntara-, Siddhāntas, are in their totality authoritative, for nowhere do they conflict with the Vedas.

Likewise is the Vaikhānasa-Āgama.

Likewise are the Dharma-Śāstras: The Law-Makers are Śāṇḍilya, Parāśara, Bharadvāja, Vasiṣṭha, Hārita and others.

Likewise, where requisite, are the Śilpa (Architectonics), Āyur-Veda (Life-knowledge, i. e. Medicine), Gāndharva (Music) etc.

Śilpa is the treatise on the subject of foundation, construction of turrets, enclosures etc.

Āyur-Veda is medicine;

Gāndharva treats of music etc.

Of this the Bharata Āgama deals with (the art of) dancing.

Also amongst the 64 Crafts, whatever is useful for Tattva (Truth), Upāya (Means) and Puruṣārtha (Goal), is authoritative.

More authoritative are the Blessed Utterances of such saints as Śrī Nammāḷvār.

Most authoritative are the works composed by Blessed Teachers (Ācāryas) such as Rāmānuja, viz., Śrī-Bhāshya etc.

Pauruṣeya or of “human origin” are works characterised by their dependence on the free-will of man and by (merit of) singular composition:

In this definition is included all such works as Kāvya or poetics, Nāṭaka or Histrionics, Alaṅkāra or Rhetoric.

As authoritative likewise are worldly utterances by (our) well-wishers (āpta) which possess (the features of)

(1) Ākānkṣā (desiring)
(2) Yogyatā (fitness) and
(3) Āsatti (proximity);

for example when it is said:

The river-side abounds with five kinds of fruit.

Thus (also) both the Vedic as well as the (Laukika) worldly utterances have a property common to them again, which is twofold:

(1) Mukhya- vṛtti or Primary force, and
(2) Gauṇa vṛtti or Secondary force.

Mukhya-vṛtti or Primary force is the Abhidhā-vṛtti, or denotative power, for example (the word) “Lion”, denoting (or meaning) the “King of the Forest” (only).

The Primary power (of words) is further resolvable into many varieties such as: Yoga or Radical (or etymological), Rūdha or Conventional, and Yoga-Rūdha or Radical-Conventional, etc.

Where the Primary force is affected, the next nearest sense becomes the metaphorical (Upacāra).

The Metaphorical is again divisible into:

(1) Lakṣaṇā or Indirect and
(2) Gauṇa or Secondary.

The First (Lakṣaṇā) is thus: “A hamlet in the Ganga” means a hamlet on its bank, as, for a hamlet directly located (in the river itself of Gangā) is a violation (of sense); hence indirectly the bank (of Ganga) is meant.

The second (Gauṇa) is thus: - “A lion is Devadatta” is to indicate that Devadatta is endowed with strength etc., (like the lion).

Thus all utterances, Vedic and of the world, have reference to objects with attributes, and import duality.

As in the manner that terms denoting “body” have their final connotation for the “embodied,”

so all Soul-terms denoting Brahma, Rudra, Agni, Indra etc., constituting the “Body” of God (Bhagavān),

and Similarly “Non-soul” terms denoting Matter (Prakṛti), Time (Kāla), Ether (Ākāśa), Life (Prāṇa) etc.,

- all have their final connotation in the “Embodied” The Supreme Spirit (Paramātman), Nārāyaṇa.

Thus do the Teachers (Ācāryas) propound! The ultimate import of all Vedāntic Sentences is understood as thus interpreted.

We shall in the Chapter (IX) on Īśvara (God), discourse on (the topic of) Nārāyaṇa, as the Ultimate Meaning of all terms, His All-bodied Character etc.

Thus ends Chapter 3.
The Treatment of Word (Śabda) in the
“Light of the School of Rāmānuja”.